Catholic student associations in resistance: Digital stumbling blocks against forgetting

Memorial event at the invitation of National Council President Sobotka in Palais Epstein

Vienna (PK) Between 1938 and 1945, more than 730 female and male members of Catholic student fraternities were in the resistance against National Socialism. Under the title “Catholic Couleur Students in Resistance and Persecution”, President of the National Council Wolfgang Sobotka, together with the Monument Construction Association for Catholics in Resistance and the Modern Society Association, invited to an event in the Palais Epstein. Among other things, the focus was on the activation of the website of the two clubs, which from today is intended to commemorate the resistance of the time in the form of “digital stumbling blocks”. The starting point was the 85th anniversary of the Wehrmacht’s invasion of Austria. A cooperation partner for the website is the Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance.

“We are obliged to uphold the commemoration of one of the darkest chapters of humanity and to establish a connection to today’s world – especially that of young people -” emphasized National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka in his opening words via video message. It is important to keep strengthening democracy and defending it against its enemies. “Democracy is not a gift, but there is no alternative,” said Sobotka.

In his introductory words, Markus Kroiher, President of the Modern Society Association, recalled the key role that Couleu students played both in the resistance against National Socialism and in the reconstruction of Austria after the Second World War. The “digital stumbling blocks” are a good way to carry the passion for freedom in Austria into the present that characterized the resistance fighters.

Panel discussions on the role of Catholic student fraternities yesterday and today

On the podium, the topics “Catholic student fraternities as fighters against National Socialism” and “It takes a flame to light a fire! Student fraternities as a socio-political force” were discussed alongside State Secretary for Digitization Florian Tursky and the district leader of the first district of Vienna, Markus Figl.

including representatives of the State Archives, the Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance and student associations.

State Secretary Tursky expressed his delight at the stumbling blocks as a digital form of passing on experiences and values. It is important to convey to future generations what the color students were willing to sacrifice for freedom. Tursky said the issue should not be left to the political left alone. Markus Figl, who is also the great-nephew of the former Austrian Chancellor and Couleur student Leopold Figl, who was deported by the National Socialists, used his family history to illustrate the relevance of the cross-generational transmission of values, as practiced in the student fraternities.

After the “end of contemporary witnessing” new forms of tradition would have to be considered, explained Helmut Wohnout,

Historian and Director General of the State Archives. For this it is necessary to start in a low-threshold and emotional way, as Stephan Roth from the documentation archive of the Austrian resistance added. Association chaplain Gregor Jansen spoke about the potential for resistance that is inherent in faith and that the resistant Couleur students had demonstrated.

In her video message for the opening of the website, Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler also underlined the importance of the resistance of Catholic students. She commemorated Arthur Lanc (1907-1995), who provided Jews with medicines and helped three of them to escape, for which the Israeli memorial city Yad Vashem awarded him the honorary title “Righteous Among the Nations”. (close) wit/mbu

NOTE: Photos from this event can be found on Parliament’s web portal.

Questions & contact:

Press service of the Parliamentary Directorate
parliamentary correspondence
Tel. +43 1 40110/2272

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